Ishikawa cypress weaving is a traditional handicraft in Hakusan City, Ishikawa Prefecture. It was designated as a prefecture’s traditional craft product in 1988.
The beginning of cypress weaving was about 400 years ago, when a traveling priest visited a village in Hakusan and taught the villagers how to weave hats with cypress strips. By the middle of the Edo period, weaving hats had become the important source of income for the villagers.
Strips of cypress called hin-na, or hegi, are woven to make articles. The most famous product is the Hakusan cypress hat, which has been made since the early Showa period (1926-1989). As it is light in weight, strong and effectively blocks off the rain and sunlight, it is widely used by farmers. The time before busy farming season is the peak of the production of Hakusan hats. Today, 6 workmen undertake the annual orders of about 700 hats. Cypress weaving is also adapted in folk crafts such as oboke (baskets to store spun hemp thread), baskets, flower vases, etc. Each item is a charming handicraft with utility and beauty.
Karui, made from woven bamboo, is a basket used to carry things on one’s back. They have been used in the Miyazaki Prefecture to carry grains, mushrooms, manure and other things needed for farm work.
The bamboo used to make karui baskets is “madake bamboo”, which grows wild all over Japan. The bamboo used for the body of the basket is woven with six strands and the “masubushi” weave is applied to finish the edge. Karui is a useful item made from all natural materials.
These baskets have an upside-down triangular pyramid shape which doesn’t allow the basket to sit on a flat surface easily. Although the baskets are unstable on level ground, they sit well on steep, mountainous hills. The wisdom of this design was gained from living in deep mountainous regions.
Today, karui are used, not only as baskets for transporting things, but also as interior decorations such as vases, letter holders or newspaper racks. They remain much loved by many people.
“Kimigara slippers” are the traditional handicraft in the Towada area (Aomori Prefecture), which is known for large amounts of corn production. “Kimi-gara” refers to the husks (kara) of corn (kimi) in the Tohoku dialect. The making of the corn husk slippers in this area dates back to 1947, when farmers found the way to utilize the husks of corn, which had been discarded as wastes. They started to make slippers during agricultural off-season. Later, efforts were made to promote its production and Towada Productive Cooperation of Corn Husk Slippers was established in 1963.
In fall, the husks are removed from the ears of corn one by one and dried in the sun. They are woven into slippers during the agricultural off-season in winter. All processes are done by hand and the materials are all natural. The corn husk slippers are in good repute because they are sturdy, light, and resistant to humidity. Also husks can be dyed in various colors to create a multitude of designs.
Neriagede is an artistic technique for creating ceramic pottery by layering or blending of clay of different colors to create a striped or marbleized effect. It requires high level of pottery techniques. Quite simply saying, it can be a little like making a tiered cake (baumkuhen).
The Neriagede shaping process comprises the steps of stacking alternately a plurality of clay boards differing from each other in color, which creates beautiful striped or marble-like patterns. In order to avoid cracking and breaking which come along with mixing a variety of different kinds of clay or during firing, high level of thechniques and extensive experiences are required.
The thechnique of Neriagede is said to be derived from the marbeling tchnique (called “Kotai” in Japan) in the Tang Dynasty China in the 7th century. It is said to have been introduced to Japan around the Azuchi-momoyama period (1568-1598), for there are several pieces of Neriagede pottery, which were supposedly made in this era, have been found.
In recent years, the techniques to color the clay itself is invented and more complex and highly artistic works are being created. New “layers” of the techniques are overlapped on to the traditional “layers,” which continuously propels the development of this high-leveled ceramic ware.
From May 3rd to the 4th every year, Hanayu (Flower Bath) Festival is held in Misasa Hot Springs to give thanks to hot waters in the town. The highlight of the festival is a large-scale tug-of-war ritual called Jinsho. The huge male rope and the female rope are made of wisteria vines and are 80 m in length, 2 m in circumference and 2 tons in weight. After they are combined together, the male rope is place in the east of the En-mon gate erected in the center of the Honcho Street, while the male rope is placed in the west of it. The tug-of-war sometimes takes as long as over 30 minutes. It is said that if the east side wins, the town is blessed with rich harvest, and the west side, the business success. Not only local people but also tourists join the tug-of-war. Whichever side wins, it will bring luck to this hot spring town of Misasa. Jinsho is a very popular event that tells people of the arrival of early summer.
Ebi Jushichiya (the 17th night) Festival has been handed down in Kofu-cho, Hino-gun, Tottori Prefecture. It dates back to about 500 years ago, when the Hachizuka clan, the castellan of Ebi Castle, opened the castle to the public and held a Bon festival, where invited townspeople enjoyed dancing and sumo wrestling regardless of rank and seniority.
The townspeople continued this Bon dance festival even after the Hachizuka clan was defeated by the Hojo clan. They got together in the grass field near the castle on August 17th on the lunar calendar and danced for the souls of the castellan and their ancestors.
Today, the festival is held on August 17th every year. The festival starts with dancing, drum beating and sumo wrestling by the groups of local residents unions, co-workers and children. At around 8:30 at night, dancers wearing yukata and sedge hats of the same design take a lead in Kodaiji Dance and spectators join them. The highlight is the moment when the great bonfire in the shape of kanji “Ju-shichi-ya (十七夜)” is lit on Mt. Kuren on the other side of the Hino River. Ebi Jushichiya Festival is a pompous and gallant festival with a long history.
This is a cabinet with doors made of flat bamboo material.
Most bamboo crafts have a softly curved shape that takes advantage of its elasticity. It is rare to use flat bamboo material for furniture like this. The way the bamboo is woven is called hemp-leaf weaving: three thin bamboos are run through a hexagonal bamboo shape that looks like a hemp leaf.
The cabinet is finished with coloring from carbonization; that is, the bamboo is turned to a dark brown shade after exposure to high-temperature and pressure steam.
The cabinet is finished with urushi (Japanese lacquer) that is layered on cloth pasted to the body. The colors of urushi and the carbonized bamboo create an impression of long-cherished antique furniture.
■ Cabinet (for private use)
・ hemp-leaf weaving, carbonization-coloring
・designed by ＭＬＩＮＡＲＩＣ ＨＥＮＲＹ ＆ ＺＥＲＶＵＤＡＣＨＩ ＬＴＤ
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
The area along the Tenryu River in Shizuoka Pref. had suffered from flood every year since the ancient times, and had a hard time in flood prevention works. A bamboo basket which contained a large stone was used to build a bank to prevent water. In the meantime, the craftsmen who made these baskets started to make a bamboo pinwheel for their children. A bamboo stick with a length of about 30 cm is split into strips with a width of 5 mm. Then the bark side of the strip is ripped off so that the strip has a thickness of about 0.4 mm. When the 4 of these thin strips are woven into a small basket, the 8 ends of the strips will come out of the basket. Finally the tip of the strips that stick out of the basket are spread in 8 directions, on which a square piece of washi paper is glued to make a bamboo pinwheel.